Green Journeys - Turning on the go Waste into High Quality Recycling Material

South Western Railway (SWR) partnered with SWRNewstar to address the challenges associated with ‘on the go’ waste through an industry leading waste management programme. SWRNewstar are one of the UK’s largest outsourced waste management companies.

Company - South Western Railway (SWR)

What's the issue being addressed?

Train Operating Companies (TOCs) such as SWR produce a significant volume of ‘on the go’ waste (coffee cups, food waste, newspapers, packaging) which is one of the most challenging waste streams to recycle. This can be particularly difficult to recycle due to liquid and food contamination, lack of storage facilities and the mixture of many different materials. 

How was this solved?

To tackle this problem SWR partnered with SWRNewstar to develop an industry leading recycling programme to deliver SWR’s target of up to 90% recycling and zero waste to landfill. SWR and SWRNewstar worked together to identify the top waste producing locations and develop a phased recycling programme, which included;

  • Phase 1 - maximising fleet depot recycling which accounts for 39% of SWR's waste
  • Phase 2 - Implementing bespoke waste plans for the top 13 waste producing stations which accounts for 40% of SWR's waste
  • Phase 3 - rationalising disposal outlets with high recovery rates

For Phase 1, audits were undertaken across all depots. Recycling officers were employed to undertake full waste segregation (paper, cardboard, plastic bottles, food, glass, general waste). The majority of waste was found to be newspapers, therefore a specialist newspaper collection service was implemented. The financial savings made through increased recycling covered the cost of the Recycling Officers, resulting in a cost neutral service and higher recycling rates. 

For Phase 2 each station was surveyed, mapped and audited for platform bin locations, signage, current and future recycling resource. Based on the findings, individual waste management plans were developed to accommodate the differences at each station. 

For Phase 3 SWRNewstar rationalised the supply base used across the estate to those with higher recovery rates for waste. By engaging with an extensive supplier base, SWR were able to find suppliers who have more efficient recycling rates and waste diversion infrastructure.
The improvements made in recycling across the estate were only possible with extensive buy-in and engagement from all stakeholders. 
  • All site managers for stations and depots were given the opportunity to feedback on the waste management plans. 
  • At stations with tenants, a consultation with the tenants and station managers was held to explain new processes and how to segregate waste. This agreement and education on recycling was key. 
  • At fleet depots, the train presentation teams were engaged and agreed to improve source segregation of newspapers from trains. A ‘two bag system’ was adopted to support segregation of waste, with one bag specifically for the collection of newspaper, which significantly improved the efficiency of Recycling Officers.
  • SWR employed a ‘Waste Manager’ to assist recycling officers at fleet depots and deliver onsite training on how to segregate waste and manage waste storage facilities.
  • Furthermore,
    • Daily Mail Group, who provide free of charge newspapers across the network in the form of The Metro and London Evening Standard, are working with SWR to investigate a closed loop process of recycling newspapers.
    • A business case was developed for the phased approach and presented to the SWR Executive Board to gain senior leadership buy-in to the recycling programme.

What are the outcomes?

Since 2017 SWR have made some significant improvements to how they manage waste including:

  • Overall recycling increasing to 82%. Total Recycling levels at the Fleet Depots increased from 57% to 87% and stations increased from 64% to 78%.
  • Over 4,000 tonnes of waste sent for recycling. An additional 100 tonnes of waste recycled on site each month on site. 
  • Zero waste direct to landfill.
  • Increased quality of recycled product, thus turning waste costs into revenue streams. Waste costs reduced by 15%.
  • Seven new part-time staff roles as Recycling Officers.
  • Reducing transport on compactors from weekly to fortnightly; total reduction in movement of 76 per year. This saved 702 tonnes of carbon. 

SWR and SWRNewstar have been awarded a Gold Green Apple for Environmental Excellence and are Finalists at the National Recycling Awards in the category of Recycling Excellence for their industry leading waste programme. The Green Apple Environment Awards (launched by The Green Organisation) is an annual international campaign to recognise, reward and promote environmental best practice around the world. 


Reducing our environmental impact, carbon smart.

Asset / operations


Organisation type


Log in or register to keep reading
Register for free individual access
  • Unlock research, articles and more
  • Get updates on RSSB’s activities





Need some help?
To talk to us about accessing RSSB content or corporate membership:
Cookies help us improve your website experience.
By using our website, you agree to our use of cookies.